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Taking Cues From Our Landscape

Taking Cues From Our Landscape

Montana’s vast and numerable landscapes are a challenge for designers who strive for integrating their built forms into our environment.  It is an important design challenge that should be not just be considered, but practiced carefully, especially in times such as these when rapid housing growth with quick pick stylism is causing a deranged view of housing.

How we improve integration of our built forms into such a complex yet subtle landscape is a matter of understanding each building site and being realistic as to how our design either melds with the local environment or stands apart from it. Most of the time Greenovision designs to meld or integrate into the surrounding landscape.  Although there are acceptable times to contrast and stand apart from our surroundings and our neighbors, in general, we consider this a rather ostentatious design pattern.  As I said, it is ‘our’ environment which we all have to live with either in delight or dyspathy. It seems that most building designs have not even considered our environment at all and it is stylism that predominates in decision making.

So what are the key ingredients to melding our designs into the landscape?

Here are a few to consider:

Understanding the vast and complex scales of Montana’s land and sky.  Although not every site has the “Big Sky” phenomena, many do.  There are, however, narrow canyons, dense urban areas, and tightly wooded areas that require a whole different sets of design parameters to arrive at appropriate massing, building heights, and roof forms. But even in these settings there is always the potential to better ‘fit in’ through attention to local details in scales (heights, widths, lengths, and volumes) of not only buildings, but natural phenomena like trees, topography backdrop, or amount of sky overhead without simply picking a ‘house style’ from a catalog.



Seeing Montana’s color and texture pallet as it is. Montana has arrays of color and texture pallets which can vary from dark wooded areas to brilliant golden fields of wheat. Large swaths of wildflowers or snowfields, areas of river rock, sandstone outcrops, and limestone can all be color pallet cues for us to follow. Nevertheless, it is through examining our design against the real environment that we arrive at appropriate colors and textures.

Studying Montana’s topography. Natural ramps and features like ridges, buttes, aretes, synclines, anticlines, glens, and valleys are all possible informants to adjusting our roof forms and building volume massing.

Through studying and then designing around such natural cues, the home has a connected and grounded aesthetic to its location. This is far different than choosing a style, like bungalow, craftsman, colonial, ranch, contemporary, etc. Not only is it just and fair to each location, it’s by far a more fun and rewarding way to design because it frees up new design possibilities!

Logan Log Cabin Remodel update!

Just an update on our latest remodel design and its realities.  The homeowners and their two dogs are living in the home as it is being remodeled.  Keeping work and home life separate becomes somewhat difficult, but can be done.

In case you might be considering a remodel of your own, this is where you begin. Without design and drawings, you most likely won’t get to progress to the following below….  Once you begin the remodeling design and construction process, don’t get discouraged! Lots of hurdles are yet to come!

Then you progress to this….

This is a picture taken in the old stair way… you can see the old log cabin which origins are back in the late 1800’s.

The logs are still in good shape!

This is the new staircase to meet modern codes.

Some framing pics along the way of remodeling….

The dried in roof awaits a brand new standing seam roof!  

Time for the plumber and electrician to rough in their utilities. Then on to the insulation of all exterior wall and roof cavities.



Hawk Ridge Framing and Windows Update!

Hawk Ridge Framing and Windows Update!

The framers have reached a major milestone in the construction of Hawk Ridge Home… the roof is on and “dried in.”  The windows and exterior doors have been set, meaning this home is well on its way to becoming real shelter.  According to Soren, the framing subcontractor, the month of June and early July had some pretty wet afternoons with large build-ups of clouds down Paradise Valley, which quickly turned into crazy wind and downpour events. When Emily and I arrived on Monday to take these pictures, it was a hot hazy late morning more typical of July days in Paradise Valley.

To see a 360 slide show  click here

Here are photos and commentary of the exterior of the Hawk Ridge Home:


Several things to note about the Hawk Ridge Home and how it sits in the landscape: Notice how the surrounding landscape has series of ramps with longish linear features where woods meet fields, or cliff bands, buttes, mountain ridges or aretes in the backdrop. Our design’s massing came from these slight angles and ramps.  Unfortunately, so many of the homes in this area have little physical form relationships with this stunning backdrop.  To further compliment the surrounding environment, the finish materials will obviously much more subdued than the Tyvec building wrap that you are seeing in these pictures! Just as a reminder: here is a link to the original concept rendering for visualizing interior and exterior texture and colors.  Please choose the exterior renderings tab to see the Hawk Ridge exterior.

As a reminder, in the following image the gray foundation will be back-filled to create a berm against the north side of house.  This build up of earth will not only give the home physical ‘grounding,’ helping it’s form set into the land, but will also contain certain mechanical features such as a cistern to catch the roof-shed water runoff and a propane tank.

We were glad to be able to get out of the sun and take a look around inside.  A few notes on the interior pictures: It is very hard at this time to get a feel for the space as the interior walls have not been framed yet. Wisely, the framers are building the interior 2×4 walls that define the interior plane of the exterior walls before they build the rest of the interior partition walls. Right now the main space is wide open giving maximum space for chop saw cutting stations and staging.

Here are photos of the Interior of the Hawk Ridge Home:

Hawk Ridge Framing 2

Hawk Ridge Framing 2

Just a few less gloomy pics after meeting with the clients and Josh Bloomquist the G.C. after a breakfast meeting at Chico Hot Springs.

A note on the last picture, Emily is helping our client better understand construction drawings.  It is a learning experience having a new home built!  The Hawk Ridge homeowners have been fun to work with.  We admire their open minded approach to exciting changes in their lives.  Thank you both!  A side note: these clients aspire to having their new home  energy efficient and have done much to educate theirselves about how their home can lead the charge into our energy conservative approach to the future.

Hawk Ridge Home Framing Photos

Hawk Ridge Home Framing Photos

The sky was a bit ominous yesterday at the Hawk Ridge Home site, but spirits were high! The homeowners met with us there after their drive up from Colorado along with Josh, the general contractor, and the framing crew led by Soren Mundt, Max, Seth and Joe.  By the way, Soren’s father, Gordan Mundt, did the concrete work, which we showed in an earlier post.  These guys have good attitudes and have been successfully and expediently moving through our design making it a reality. By the way, they have so far enjoyed working with Greenovision kit-like detailed framing drawings which is a reward for our hard work.  In a nut shell, we give our builders drawings that have pre-dimensioned every stud and header so that the framers are confronted with fewer major decision making dilemmas, which can disrupt the flow and speed in which the home is erected.  In Montana we have to be very careful about managing the time we have during good weather windows.

What you are seeing is the exterior frame of the home; there is another inner wall system, which is constructed after the roof goes on.  This construction method provides a total wall thickness of 1 foot, which will achieve an R-40 +/-  insulative value.  This is not your average home in the making.  The roof will come in at around R-60+.

We had very productive conversations yesterday and we’re all exited to see this home take shape.

View to the south through the master bedroom window array.

This is where the sliding glass door will be to lead to the covered north-side patio area.

View to the west from the guest room/exercise room.

This is the view to the north from the guest room/office.

This will be the view to the north from the kitchen sink. Not a bad vista when washing dishes!

This is the master bedroom.

Mark and homeowner.

View to the south of Emigrant Peak through the living room window array.

This small room is the attached greenhouse that will be used for hydroponics.

This concrete wall is a trombe wall off the the greenhouse.

This is where the utility closet will be in the garage.

Addition + Remodel Design of an 1890’s Home

Addition + Remodel Design of an 1890’s Home

Here’s a sneak peak of an addition/remodel project that we’re currently designing and drafting. This home was originally a log cabin built in the 1890’s that has seen numerous additions over the years. There is a small shed roof addition in the rear that is un-insulated and has asphalt shingles causing severe ice damming and damage to the roof & entryway. The current upstairs space is seldom used because it is too small and poorly designed, plus the stairs are too steep and narrow. This addition solves a number of problems for this home: 1) It fixes the ice damming issue, 2) It creates safer stairs that meet code, and 3) It creates a more comfortable and spacious upstairs space that can serve as a guest room. This addition improves the livability of this home and increases resale value.

This addition is designed to fit the clients’ budget as well as compliment the existing traditional style of the home. The pocket windows add a fun modern flair to the traditional design. This addition along with the added insulation to the existing roofs will greatly improve the energy-efficiency and overall comfort the entire existing home.

The current entry to the home in the rear of the building has no overhang, which during rain and snow events is not a pleasant way to enter and exit the home. The addition is designed to include a new roof over the entry.

These images show the elevations of the new upstairs spaces. An addition to an 1890’s home not only requires careful design, but also a set of detailed plans are required to obtain a building permit. Construction drawings provide instructions and other important information for the builders and subcontractors.

The new upstairs will include a half bathroom, a living/guest room area, built-in shelving, and built-in desks. The addition will also provide a new, spectacular view of the mountains to the east.

Phase 1 of this project is the upstairs addition, however, we are also designing Phase 2, the remodel of the downstairs kitchen.

These are more detailed floor plans of the Phase 2 kitchen remodel design.

These are the 2nd story floor plans for both the current and new spaces. Many of these drawings look askew because the existing home is not square!

The homeowners will be the general contractors and construction of this home improvement project begins this Summer 2017.  Please stay tuned as we share updates of the progress!

Hawk Ridge Home Construction Updates: May 3rd &10th

Hawk Ridge Home Construction Updates: May 3rd &10th

Construction of the Hawk Ridge Home in Paradise Valley is well underway! This home is designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient with “Sun Smart Radiant Heating” (combined passive solar and radiant hydronic heating), passive cooling, a well-insulated and tightly sealed building envelope, solar electric panels, long-lasting exterior materials, interior finish details made from reclaimed lumber, and other green features. It’s Greenovision’s greenest home yet!

These first four photos were taken on May 3rd and snow the plumbing and electrical conduits being installed under the slab.

The next six photos were taken on Mark’s site visit on May 10th. You can see the radiant floor tubing laid out and the slab being poured; both are important components of the design and energy efficiency of this green home. The concrete slab floor is the “thermal mass” which stores and helps regulate the passive solar heat gain during the winter. The radiant system actively distributes the passively collected solar heat for an even temperature throughout the home and is also an efficient back-up heating system for long stretches of sunless days.

Thanks to the excavation, concrete, electrical, heating, and plumbing crews as well as the general contractor for all of your excellent work so far! We’re thrilled to see this home coming along… More construction photos can be seen on our Greenovision Facebook Page.

Hawk Ridge Home Concrete Footings and Forms

Hawk Ridge Home Concrete Footings and Forms

Paradise Valley Montana concrete footings

Some progress photographs of the Hawk Ridge Home’s concrete footings and forms going in; located in beautiful Paradise Valley, Montana.  Gordon Mundt Concrete and Construction and his crew are getting at it pretty quickly.  This is only day 3 since they began and the footers looked very strong, the form work thorough and clean. Here are a few photos, maybe interesting to you or maybe not, but the foundation is obviously a huge part of a home’s build up. One of the benefits of visiting the site is a nice soak afterwards at Chico Hot Springs!

Just a reminder of what it will all end up looking like inside and out.  You can see more renderings here.

Paradise Valley Hawk Ridge Home Underway!

Paradise Valley Hawk Ridge Home Underway!

Paradise Valley Hawk Ridge Home Underway!  Exciting times and an appropriate time to get a start on construction in Montana.  We believe in breaking ground in the spring when the snow has melted away. This gives the best window of weather during the dryer months to get the exterior portion of a home’s construction done.  Building when its warmer ensures that the work is done correctly.  Building when its warmer and drier is less stressful on on the builders which makes for more precise construction practices,for example the taking of  measurements are more accurate, materials are drier and more stable, and in general a more comfortable builder is a happier builder which usually leads to better quality.   In general its better to line up your home construction so that the builder gets to work when its best to build. If that means waiting a bit for a builders schedule to line up with the warmer seasons its worth the wait. The quality of your home, its longevity, not to mention all of the money invested in the home, is well worth a short wait.

A note on getting a seasonal jump on construction: some people think that getting the foundation hole dug in the fall would give you a better jump on things.  This is actually a big mistake.  Never break ground until you are ready to do the work.  All kinds of bad things can happen to the hole and ground if it is dug before winter.  To name a few, the hole itself would allow winter snow to drift in setting the ground into a frozen state, which can take longer to thaw out in the spring.  The foundation hole can allow moisture to infiltrate the ground making for a wet place to work in the spring or the foundation dig itself can cave in making for more digging before form work.  Unless you plan to have the whole foundation put in and back-filled wait on the foundation excavation and instead focus on the following.

The fall is a good time to have your site laid out correctly in an un-rushed manner.  Hawk Ridge which was laid out using the latest in surveying technology and completed by Matt of Caddis Engineering. After the layout is complete, the excavator can show up to do perk test dig hole for septic and put the driveway in. Having the driveway set in the fall ensures that there is a nice dry compact entry for the excavation equipment come spring.  This avoids a huge mess, which in Montana can take years to heal. Landscape can seem durable, but in reality it’s very fragile in Montana.

Just another Beautiful Day in Paradise!  Maybe just a tad windy though! Thank you Josh for the Photos!

Site Layout in Paradise Valley

The excavator, Scott Ross with LA excavation, looking over just what he has to do today.  The contractor Josh of CWJ & Associates is present to convey his knowledge of Greenovision’s design.  We met just hours before this photo was taken to discuss those last little details before the dig commenced.

Paradise Valley Montana site excavation underway

Not a bad place to work and certainly won’t be a bad place to live!    Scott Ross  taking it all in.

In Montana start excavation in the spring

This is the home to be built! (Photo and rendering from a similar perspective.)  See more on that home here

Paradise Valley Hawk Ridge Home Greenovision Design

Crimson Bluffs Interior

Crimson Bluffs Interior

Upon entering the Crimson Bluffs Home from the west-side entrance, you are greeted with a brightly lit and well organized foyer. This mudroom area has custom built-in cubbies and a closet for storage of seasonal clothing, shoes, and gear. Eventually there will be a custom built-in bench for sitting down and removing shoes. A door to the north of the foyer leads to a small and quiet office/wool dying and spinning room. Natural sunlight entering through the entry door is also shared through the glass door of the office.

Warm sunlit entry foyer

This is custom-built shelving in the office/wool dying and spinning room. All of the custom finish carpentry and built-ins were crafted by Dan Harrigfeld of Cadillac Custom Cabinets of Townsend, MT.

Simple clean shelves over cabinet

Exiting the foyer to the east, you walk into an open floor plan which includes the kitchen, dining room, and living room. You immediately have stunning views of the Big Belt Mountains to the east and the Crimson Bluffs to the south. Views of the Missouri River can be seen just down the hill to the east and northeast.

Open sunlit Livingroom

The upper and lower operable awning windows are specially designed to promote passive cooling in the home. Cool air enters the home from the north and warm air exits to the south. The homeowners report the home is staying at a very comfortable interior temperature during the hot summer months without running any electric fans or venting devices.

Open floor plan with awesome view

There is an open kitchen with a custom wood slab counter top. Notice the fun pocket windows along the west-facing wall. They are specifically designed to minimize the amount of glaring western sunlight entering the home and provide snippets of views of the beautiful hillside behind. They serve two other important functions: senses of security and privacy. The homeowners can see from their kitchen and living room small views of the road and who is entering their driveway, but drivers-by cannot see in.

Basswood ceiling modern home

The natural wood ceiling gives the home a bright and organic feeling. The lumber used is basswood, which was brought to Montana by the homeowners from their native home of Minnesota- a homage to their roots.

Views of the Missouri River can be seen to the east. The deck with cantilevering roof overhang and custom cable railing is just outside of the sliding glass doors. The deck is a cool and shaded place to rest outdoors during the warmer months.

Main space Windows and views

Views to the south are of the Crimson Bluffs hillsides. Notice the tiled radiant hydronic floor soaking up the sun’s natural energy on this February 15th day. The passively collected solar heat is actively distributed throughout the first floor by the radiant floor in a strategy we call “Sun Smart Radiant Heat.”

Passive solar floor plan

The upstairs spaces have 360 degree views, ample natural daylight, and and open airy feel. Wildlife such as bluebirds, sand hill cranes, pelicans, moose, and deer are seen right from their couch or kitchen island.

Awning over Picture windows equal good venting


The main upstairs floor also includes a half bathroom, a walk-in pantry, and an open stairwell leading to the lower floor.

Simple clean Pantry design

These are the stairs leading to the lower level. The stairs were designed and built by Marks Lumber of Clancy, MT and were installed by Dan Harrigfeld.

Thick wood tread open staircase

The custom welded ties for securing the railing to the stairs were fabricated by a high school student from Broadwater High School in Townsend as part of a shop class assignment. The steel was leftover from the exterior custom awnings (fabricated by Mark Pelletier). Most materials of this home were carefully selected to be either recycled or sustainable/long-lasting, so it was great to reuse these metal scraps. The inclusion of this student into the construction of this home really illustrates how the Crimson Bluffs Home was a community project. Like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to build a house!

Modern rustic stairs

The lower level includes a master bedroom with master bath and walk-in closet, a guest room, a guest bathroom, and a large, sunny family room that can double as another guest room.

This is the view at the bottom of the stairs on the bottom floor of the family room. There is a custom rustic barn door leading to the guest bedroom. The south-facing windows are letting in the February sunlight for passive solar heat gain.

Passive solar daylight walkout basement

The guest bedroom has a custom crafted rustic bed frame by Cadillac Custom Cabinets. It’s hard to to see because of the glare, but there is a beautiful view of the Missouri River through the window.

Modern meets rustic bedroom

The downstairs guest bathroom is naturally bright. The ample natural day lighting in this home saves significantly on electric lighting costs and creates a feeling of comfort.

Modern meets rustic vanity

The master bathroom with custom vanity is a mix of modern and rustic.

Cool clean bathroom

The master bedroom walk-in closet has custom cabinets for great organization.

Walk-in closet with built in shelves and drawers

The photo to the right is looking down the downstairs hall from the master bedroom. The ceilings on both floors are the natural basswood.

The lower level also has an unfinished room for storage, laundry, and the home’s mechanical systems.

Basswood ceiling modern hallway